In 1973 for the author the first teaching assignment in a small hillside village in Ogliastra, in the center of Sardinia. A metropolitan 1968 student catapulted into a rural clod of the time struggling with a sixth grade, the “worst” of the school, with whom to share 18 hours a week, ten in the morning and eight in the afternoon. A mixed class (13 females and ten males) who assaults him with an incomprehensible language. A wall of incommunicability. Until after various attempts, children of the generous iconoclasm of his generation (reading the newspapers, theater in the classroom, after-school always in the fields) the teacher invents a correspondence to break silences and conflicts.
It is usual to credit Truman Capote with the invention of “literary journalism” or, if you prefer, with “creative no-fiction” which consists in modulating according to literary schemes the reconstruction of facts on the basis of an objective and accurate collection of news. This is what Truman Capote did in 1966 In Cold Blood where in order to reconstruct the fourfold murder of the Cutter family he did not limit himself to reconstructing the facts but to agitate them in a narrative scheme that subjected them and at the same time gave them a broader, national socio-political dimension.
The novel had appeared in installments in the “New Yorker” and it is in that prestigious magazine, but also in “Harper’s” or “The Village Voice” that this type of writing spreads that the “New Yorker” places under the buttonhole Report at large. If it is correct that Capote claims the copyright, however it is good to remember that the genre explodes in newspapers starting from the twenties and thirties, in the feuilleton of German-language newspapers. In those feuilleton boundless – starting from the first page – the reconstruction of the facts resonated with the psychological dimension of the characters who lived them and gave authority to the point of view of those who narrated the facts especially when he himself was an actor of the facts. Feuilletonancestors of the Report at large or of LongForm Journalism.
Well this book by Giancarlo Mirone – born in 1948, the remainder of a sixty-eight and Pop Palermo but with the advantage of having lived a golden childhood in the shadow of the Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires and of knowing the other mythical Palermo; professor in a middle school and then in a Sardinian high school (1973-79); then in Palermo a long-time journalist – he is a delightful example of the category of “literary journalism” because Giancarlo exhibits all its supporting elements: subjectivization of the facts narrated, attention to the psychologies of the characters (his students), wealth of news: landscape, social dimension and stratification, productive apparatus, monuments, foods, rituals; individual and group psychologies – his colleagues: these “young comrades” from Tuscany, Apulian professors in exile and poorly tolerated because with their presence they ended up blocking local resources.
But since Mirone tells this story 50 years after that first experience as a teacher, and has been a journalist for decades in his narration in the precision of the evocations of facts, characters (from the Aga Khan of the Costa Smeralda at the end of the war in Viet Nam; to the Kissinger who opens to the Chinese after the game of ping -pong, the terrible days in Milan) and objects, becomes vintage, while the soundtrack culminates in Come Together and ne My free song by Lucio Battisti with a vast set of Peppino di Capri, Milva, Fausto Leali, the Chameleons, Drupi, Ricchi and Poveri of the San Remo festival that the boys followed closely. But vintage emerges in the list of cars he cites: Mini Mirror, Fiat 500, Citroen Dyane, Ferrari, Bmw 2002 white, Fiat 850, Fiat 128 coupé, Citroen Mehari (is – he explains – a car discovered by the bodywork in Abs designed as a seaside car, in fact beach); Porsche and absolute loveHonda 450: “Which I never stop assimilating to a musical polychromy. Violin when sliding at a small trot, double bass when increasing frequencies, irrepressible snare drum with saturated carburetors. “
Giancarlo tells what he experienced between January-October 73 when he finished his military service he landed in Sardinia to teach in a first class of a middle school in Baunei: Agro-pastoral hilly village of Ogliastra, about a hundred kilometers to the south on the eastern coast of Sardinia. A track with dissonant orography and asphalt. Flashes of plain contiguous to the sea that can be sensed or glimpsed ferrous on the left, alternating with the arching of soft or harsh slopes, with muffled soars of thick and threatening fog. All dotted with a few inhabited centers, mostly scattered but neat houses.
I was assigned a sixth grade, section D. The class is mixed, with the male population partly made up of repeatedly repeating kids, some of whom are over 14 years old. In short, it is considered the worst of the Baunei averages. The first impact is as seismic as it is mortifying.
For Mirone – at his debut – the pedagogical question becomes a nightmare: he and his colleagues know Rodari, Calvino but above all The letter to a teacher. And from a story like this we understand how decisive Don Milani was for many young professors. But Mirone’s book is not only a successful pedagogical story, it is also the story of a double search for identity. Giancarlo, given the difficulty of communicating with his pupils, tries with the theater by staging Beckett (he did it in a Palermo cellar that I well remember); he tries to read the newspaper trying to explain how that extraordinary machine works but even with slight progress he does not scratch the wall which is covered with shouting hostility. And he has the idea of asking his students to write to him. Surprisingly, the dialogue begins, intensifies and the pupil even becomes a teacher when he explains to the teacher how to make cheese.
He writes it in Sardinian and wants the master to transcribe it in Italian. And it is in this exchange between the original language and the received language that the construction of a new, certainly fragile but different identity begins. Giancarlo kept these notebooks for 50 years, missing an opportunity given the success in the nineties, twenty years later, of the book and the film “I hope that I get along”. In mirror with his pupils, Mirone, unable to communicate with the closed society that surrounds him, asks a newspaper to write. And he asks it because he too is looking for a new professional identity.
Find a side in everyday life The New Sardinia founded in 1891 and began sending correspondence. Like his pupils, even Mirone with a correspondence anticipates his future identity with the reconciliatory coup even if precarious when on “La Nuova Sardegna” some of the letters that the students had sent him are published, Titolone a five columns and photograph by Baunei: “I would like every professor to bring newspapers and read articles that interest us.” Eyelet: “A different alternative in a school in a mountain village”. Mirone comments: “What can I say, today I think I can reasonably argue that we made it. Guys, so far it’s been me and you, from now on it’s us. ” It was Monday May 14, 1973.
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